I've spent a lot of time talking about footstrike and where it occurs on this blog. If you recall from previous posts, there has been a large debate about where foot strike should occur. I don't have to go through all the details again, but the general consesus is that many scientific researchers have favored the heel strike as the correct way to run for the past two decades or so. Frequently the recent Japanese Half Marathon study is cited as proof that even good runners heel strike.
Today, I recieved a video from Niell Elvin, a professor at the City College of NY, of the 5th avenue mile elite women's race. So, I'd like to thank Niell for taking the time to set this up and take the video, and I hope it spurs more of you who now have access to high speed video camera's to take initiative and film some of the top runners at races around the world. (Take note of how Niell had the camera set up so that the runners were perpendicular to the camera too!)
I'll definately be doing further analysis on this video, but for now let's take a quick look at footstrike. Here's the video:
Footstrike of the elites:
A couple of things to keep in mind is that this is a slightly downhill road race. The video was shot near the 1/4mile mark and if memory serves me right from last year when I was watching a training partner and an athlete I coached race it, that particular spot is flat. The real downhill does not come until after the half mile mark. Secondly, it's taken during a good part of the race in that it's after the start enough so that they have settled into the race, but not so far that fatigue has set in. So it gives us a good idea of their mechanics without fatigue.
For the quick analysis, I went through and tried to get a clear shot of what was happening with their foot right before contact occured. Even with a 300fps shot, this is difficult, so instead of segmenting into several different classifications, I stuck with two main classifications: heel strike and flat foot. Where I could clearly see the forefoot touching down first, I mentioned that in parenthesis.
I could get a clear shot of 15 out of 18 runners. Out of those 15:
11 "Flat foot", 4 Heel strikers
In order of finish:
1 31 Shannon Rowbury Nike 4:24.12 -Flatfoot (Forefoot)
2 40 Sara Hall Asics 4:24.34 -Flatfoot
3 34 Erin Donohue Nike 4:24.40 - Flatfoot (forefoot)
4 42 Hannah England Nike 4:25.29 - Heel
5 39 Molly Huddle Saucony 4:25.92 -Flatfoot (Forefoot)
6 33 Morgan Uceny Reebok 4:26.27 – flatfoot
7 43 Amy Mortimer Reebok 4:27.07 -Heel
8 35 Carmen Douma-Hussar New Balance 4:27.53 -Flatfoot
9 36 Elisa Cusma Piccione Nike 4:28.50 -???
10 41 Treniere Moser USA Nike 4:28.84- ???
11 37 Nicole Edwards Saucony 4:29.14 - Heel strike
12 50 Gabriele Anderson Brooks 4:30.95 –Flatfoot
13 47 Heather Dorniden Team USA Minnesota 4:31.05 - extended/ but comes back flatfoot
14 48 Hilary Stellingwerff Canada New Balance 4:32.06 - Flatfoot (forefoot)
15 44 Megan Wright New Balance 4:35.28 -????
16 45 Liz Maloy New York Athletic Club 4:37.06 –Flatfoot (forefoot)
17 49 Aziza Aliyu West Side Runners 4:37.84 - Heel
18 46 Brenda Martinez New Balance 4:46.36 -Forefoot/Flatfoot
What I largely saw is that the majority of the runners landed flatfoot and overall have pretty good biomechanics. I'll save further analysis for later, but I was really impressed with how recent American Record setter in the 5k, Molly Huddle, looked. On the opposite side of things, I'm amazed at Hannah England. She's a very impressive runner, but her running form leaves a lot to be desired. She has the classic heel strike/overstride/ leaning back, form going on. Making slow subtle changes would surely benefit her.
It's important to note that how the foot strike occurs is also important, and if you watch this video you can clearly see that a couple runners have some unique ways of striking the ground.
This is just a quick post and analysis, and I'll be sure to return to this great video again. As it is easy to get caught up with foot strike, but it is just one part of the stride.
Thanks again to Niell Elvin for taking this video. My hope is that we can get a large collection of high speed video of elites running. I plan to get some of when I compete at bigger races and hopefully when I'm doing some coaching at bigger races too.